Introduce neighbourhood policing team webchats
Despite the challenges faced by Dorset Police regarding increased and more complex demand alongside reductions in resources, the public continue to feel more reassured by a visible and accessible police presence in their area.
While officer numbers have reduced, there are undoubtedly ways that can be explored to maximise their time on frontline policing duties, including their contact with local communities.
Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) are much valued and operate at the heart of the communities they serve. Despite funding pressures, the PCC pledged to keep NPTs, and the Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) role, in Dorset during his term to maintain this valuable link between the police and the public.
Investment in technology by the Commissioner has enabled officers to work remotely more effectively, enhancing their visible presence. The introduction of the Neighbourhood Engagement Contract has also set out clear minimum standards for NPT officers in terms of how they will engage with the public and what the public can expect from them.
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to engagement, online communications such as web chats are one way to enhance accessibility and provide more flexibility for interactions with the police.
The PCC has held a number of successful online conversations, for example in launching the Police and Crime Plan or as a focus on a specific issue or geographical area, all including local officers with specific knowledge and experience.
Some NPTs have explored using web chats alongside a range of other communication tools such as meetings, social media, website updates and Dorset Alert. The Force will continue to explore the wider use of online communications and are currently exploring the best platform to facilitate this – possibly linked to existing social media facilities.
The OPCC is keen to ensure that officers and staff are able to adapt to the challenges and demands their roles provide, including tackling the challenge to work ever more efficiently and effectively in their roles and so the phased introduction of 1000 new laptops across the Force has been widely welcomed as a significant step toward a truly mobile workforce.
The laptops will give officers and staff the ability to use the full range of software away from police stations, effectively removing the need to return to stations to update records which in turn will save a substantial amount of officer hours. In addition, there has been an upgrade to the mobile phones used, which means mobile hot spots will be available to help enhance remote policing.
These improvements will ultimately, increase visibility of police in our communities and allow smarter working practices to evolve.